In digital marketing, we use online data to guide every decision. We count clicks. We track virtual customer journeys. We obsess over our metrics. In doing so, we come to understand online behavior with a granularity never before possible.
And here, aided by our observations and insights, we develop tunnel vision.
A significant proportion of customer interactions continue to occur in person. For this reason, offline behavior remains an essential consideration for many businesses. We, as digital marketers, need to visualize the full sales funnel if we wish to maximize sales. The challenge – and the fun – comes in linking offline customer interactions to online activity.
Understanding Offline Conversions
In marketing, the term conversion can have many different meanings. The simplest describes the “conversion” from a potential customer to a paying customer. More broadly, a conversion can be considered any action a business desires for a customer to take.
Offline conversions encompass all customer interactions that are motivated by digital content but take place in the real world. For example, clicking an online ad may lead a customer to make a purchase in a physical store. In another case, someone may call to schedule in-person service after visiting a website. Offline conversions can also include event participation prompted by email or social media promotions.
Unlike online conversions, which are easily trackable using small bits of computer code (e.g., pixels, click identifiers, etc.), offline conversions occur outside the digital workspace. This makes tracking more difficult. The marketer must not only identify that the brick-and-mortar interaction, or the offline sales call conversation, involved the same customer, but also determine how to append the offline behavior to the digital tracking log.
Making this process more complicated, the systems used to document offline conversions can vary widely. A retail store, for instance, might experience increased sales after a digital ad campaign. In this scenario, the store would have to determine which aspects of its sales came from digital advertising versus other sources. Similarly, a B2B software company might notice an uptick in subscription sales over phone or email following a LinkedIn initiative. Here, since the final sales were completed outside the online environment, the company would need to determine which customers were motivated to call specifically by LinkedIn advertising.
Attributing proper credit to these offline conversions and including them in marketing analytics is crucial for achieving a comprehensive analysis of your advertising campaign. It enables you to identify the most effective strategies for reaching and converting your target customers. In other words, you can generate qualified leads more efficiently. Thus, by learning how to integrate offline conversions into your overall marketing strategy, you derive a more accurate view of your sales funnel and its many opportunities for optimization.
The Challenge of Tracking Offline Conversions
Now comes the tricky part: measurement. As discussed above, offline conversions (e.g., in-person or over-the-phone sales) are not inherently connected to digital data sources in the same way online activities are. Consider a customer who clicks on an online advertisement and later purchases the product in a physical store. Simply because some aspects of this purchase are not digital, the connection between the ad and the purchase is not as clear-cut as it would be in an online environment. This makes it very difficult to trace offline conversions back to online advertising.
Many businesses struggle with these nuances, opting to neglect offline conversions in their analytics. Some may fail to recognize the importance of offline conversions altogether. Others may lack the technical experience to integrate offline conversions with their online metrics. Either situation can lead to skewed insights, with the impact of digital advertising on offline behaviors being underestimated or misunderstood.
For instance, a digital campaign culminating in offline sales will be undervalued if it considers only online behaviors (form fills, click to calls, etc.). Likewise, customer behavior will remain enigmatic if a business fails to consider how offline interactions (scoring leads, etc.) influence advertising and promotional analyses. Oversights like these can severely warp your tracking data, leaving you to make important business decisions with shoddy evidence.
The goal, therefore, is not just to track these offline conversions, but to interpret them in the context of your online data. A holistic view is essential for optimizing your strategy across offline and online channels. By addressing these challenges head-on, you set yourself up for evidence-based strategy development.
Strategies for Tracking Offline Conversions
Several techniques can help to bridge the gap between online and offline conversions, each offering unique insights into customer behavior and campaign efficacy:
- Unique Phone Numbers and QR Codes: Utilizing unique phone numbers or QR codes tied to specific campaigns is a direct method for tracking phone conversions. Phone numbers can be tied programmatically to a campaign (e.g., a lead from a Facebook campaign will see a different phone number than a lead from a Google Ads campaign). Similarly, a retail store may display a QR code to win spending points or sign up for a newsletter. When customers use these phone numbers or QR codes, it creates a clear link between an online campaign and an offline action.
- Coupon Codes and Special Offers: Implementing coupon codes or special offers in online advertisements that are redeemable in physical stores is a powerful strategy. This method not only incentivizes customers to visit physical locations but also allows businesses to track the conversion from online advertisement to offline purchase. By analyzing the redemption rate of these codes, companies can gain valuable insights into how online marketing efforts translate into offline sales and adjust their strategies accordingly. Critically it’s imperative that the redemption rates get imported back into a business’ marketing analytics platform (e.g., Google Analytics, Big Query, etc.) so the entire customer journey (from online to offline) can be tracked.
- CRM Integration with Digital Marketing Tools: Integrating digital marketing tools with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems (Hubspot, Zoho, Salesforce, etc.) ensures a more complete view of the customer journey. When properly integrated with your analytics platforms, certain CRMs allow for the tracking of the entire sales funnel, from initial awareness to post-purchase engagement. This comprehensive perspective is crucial for understanding how different marketing activities contribute to customer engagement, purchase, and retention.
- Lead Score Sheets and Tracking Codes: A lead score sheet is a tool that can be used in offline (or manual) sales to evaluate and rank the likelihood that a potential customer (a lead) will purchase a product or service. By evaluating leads in this way, you can determine which leads are most likely to produce conversions (i.e., the final sale). Say we use Google Ads to drive leads to fill out a contact form on a website, and then salespeople from a business call those leads. Sophisticated marketing companies can append tracking codes such as a Google Click ID (GCLID) to a contact form filled out online; that data (the person’s contact information and associated GCLID data) can be sent into the lead score sheet, then the lead score sheet (and all the associated conversion data) can be sent back into the advertising platform from which the tracking code originated. In this example, GCLID data with appended conversion data would be sent back into Google Ads for campaign optimization. Additionally, these data can be sent to an analytics platform to view the entire customer journey (from online to offline). The business can then use its lead score sheet in various ways to optimize its marketing approach.
By tracking offline conversions with these strategies, your business can make more informed marketing decisions.
Integrating Offline Conversions into Your Digital Marketing Strategy
The integration of offline conversion data into digital marketing strategies is a critical step towards achieving a more nuanced and effective approach to targeting and campaign personalization. This process involves understanding and leveraging the full spectrum of customer interactions, both online and offline, to create a comprehensive marketing strategy. Here are some key advantages:
- Enhanced Targeting Precision: You can gain a deeper understanding of your customers by infusing your digital marketing strategies with data from offline conversions, including in-store purchases, phone call inquiries, or phone call sales. This allows for more precise targeting, ensuring your efforts are directed toward the most receptive and segmented audiences. For instance, patterns in offline sales can reveal customer segments that are more likely to respond to certain types of online advertising.
- Improved Campaign Personalization: Insights from offline conversions can be used to tailor your marketing messages. By understanding offline contributions to the customer journey, marketers can create more personalized and relevant content. This allows you to customize online ads for the demographics and personalities engaging with your products offline. One example might be to tailor email campaigns based on phone call conversions.
- Omnichannel Marketing: Omnichannel marketing coagulates all online and offline channels into a cohesive understanding of how leads interact with marketing, advertising, and sales processes. This approach ensures that all conversions are considered and that the marketing strategy provides a unified brand experience. For example, a customer who interacts with a brand online should have a complementary experience when they visit a physical store and vice versa.
- Online Optimization: Integrating offline conversion data informs businesses how to use offline behavior to optimize online marketing tactics. By understanding which offline channels and strategies drive conversions, businesses can adjust their online efforts to better support and enhance these successful offline interactions and learn from unsuccessful ones. This could involve aligning online content and advertising with successful offline promotions or events.
- Cohesive and Responsive Strategy Development: The ultimate goal of integrating offline conversions into a digital marketing strategy is to develop a cohesive and responsive marketing strategy. Online and offline data complement each other. Our task is to recognize the possibilities.
Analyzing and Optimizing Based on Offline Conversions
Data provided by offline conversions provide information you can use to see patterns, understand customer behavior, and refine your marketing strategies for better engagement and conversion rates. Testing various approaches and learning from their outcomes enables you to tweak for improved performance. Your insights will influence ad placement, content strategy, product development, and customer service. In turn, this will inform budget allocation and promote maximum ROI.
Here’s a good workflow for optimizing your marketing strategies:
- Collecting and Analyzing Offline Data: As we’ve seen, the first step is gathering data from offline conversions, including in-store purchases, phone calls, event attendances, or any other non-digital customer actions that result from online marketing. You must then address whatever technical hurdles arise while importing offline data into your online marketing platform. At this point, you are ready to analyze your data for strategy insights. For instance, you might identify which online ads produce the most in-store visits or which demographic segments tend to engage in offline conversions.
- Integrating Offline Data with Online Metrics: Integrating offline data with online metrics can illuminate how different marketing channels and campaigns contribute to conversions. This integration is essential for optimizing marketing campaigns. Tools like Google Analytics, CRM systems, and specialized attribution software can be used for merging and analysis.
- Utilizing Methods for Data Analysis and Interpretation: Various methods can be employed to analyze and interpret offline data. These include cohort analysis, customer journey mapping, funnel analysis, heatmaps, segmentation analysis, and predictive analytics. Such methods can reveal how different groups of customers respond to marketing efforts and move through your sales funnel.
- Optimizing Marketing Campaigns and ROI: The insights gained from offline conversion data can be used to optimize marketing campaigns for better ROI. This could require that adjust your ad timing and placement, tailor your messages to resonate more with a target audience, or reallocate your budget to more effective marketing channels. For example, if offline conversion information shows that certain keywords or ad placements yield higher in-store visits, you can increase investment in those areas.
- Learning Through Iteration: Guided by your analyses, you should continually test new approaches. A/B testing can be particularly useful here, allowing you to compare different variables and see which ones yield better results. Always measure your outcomes, and refine your strategies accordingly.
Future Trends and Challenges in Offline Conversion Tracking
Emerging technologies like AI and machine learning will surely influence the future of offline conversion tracking. These technologies promise more sophisticated data integration, predictive analytics, and real-time attribution models.
To our benefit, such advancements will enable a more seamless integration of offline conversion data into digital marketing. All signs point to progress in attributing offline conversions to online campaigns. Advanced tracking solutions currently in development will help to address this issue, enhancing the precision of targeting and campaign personalization.
The future of offline conversion tracking is also likely to include new challenges in the way of privacy and compliance regulations. Internet safety is paramount, and understandable user concerns about data privacy have precipitated tighter legal policies, such as GDPR and CCPA laws. Moving forward, businesses must get creative to secure useful tracking insights while complying with user safety measures. And as you continue to meet these challenges, so too will you continue to benefit from your efforts.
Offline conversion tracking is an antidote to digital tunnel vision. It provides a fuller view of customer behavior, positioning you to get the strongest possible returns on your marketing investments. In doing so, offline conversion tracking keeps you focused on the big picture: driving business through authentic connection with your customers.
Offline conversions represent the tangible value generated by your digital efforts. Integrating offline conversions into your analytics platforms can provide a comprehensive view of customer behavior and campaign effectiveness. Only with this knowledge at your fingertips can you devise strategies that reach your audience wherever they may engage: online or off.
Interested in integrating offline conversions into your online advertising efforts? Contact us today so we can help your business see the entire customer journey from digital to in-store.